I told myself I wasn’t going to write about writing too often on this blog. Writing about reading about writing is different though, right?
Okay, I know it’s not really different. But this is my blog, and I can write about writing or write about reading about writing too much if I want to.
Now that that’s out of my system (you’d think I was drunk, wouldn’t you? I’m not, I promise), I want to talk about reading books on writing craft.
I wrote for a decade before I realised writing craft books were a thing. Now I love them and I read them all the time. Maybe you don’t. Hey, I’m not judging.
Maybe you don’t even write, and you’re like, Alecia, stop talking about writing. It’s so darned boring. (But you might not have used such polite language.) All I can say to that is sorry, I promise my next post won’t be about writing.
There was a time when I owned nearly every writing craft book in print. (This was before self publishing became more than Lulu.) Now I don’t, but I do have a lot and I’ve read nearly all of them multiple times.
It always surprises me when I talk to other writers and they say they don’t read about writing craft. Sure, there’s a lot of bad information out there and it’s easy to get information overload, but in my opinion there are also some real gems that will cut years off your learning curve. At least, they did mine.
But maybe you’re much smarter than me or have better writing instinct, and you figure out everything about writing on your own. If that’s the case, I’m very happy for you and not in the least bit jealous.
Or maybe you prefer to figure things out on your own, even if it takes longer. That’s perfectly valid too.
But if you’re interested in why I read so many writing craft books and what I think I get out of them, read on.
A good book on writing is written by a great writer, and so it almost has to be an entertaining read. At a very minimum, the writing should be excellent. If it isn’t, stop right away because something’s wrong.
Some writing books are hilarious, and not just because I like laughing at examples of terrible writing (though I do).
Some tell entertaining stories, as well.
Some writing books make me believe I really can do this.
I understand it’s common for writers to go through phases of thinking their sentences are lamer than an ostrich with a broken ankle. They worry they understand as much about characters as they do about rocket surgery, and their plots work as well as square wheels. (Simile overload? Sorry, now I have been drinking.)
I certainly have these phases.
Sometimes an inspiring writing book is all I need to tow me out of the ditch. I get all kinds of pleasant fantasies while I’m reading writing books.
Fantasies of writing prose so beautiful that it makes microwave ovens weep.
Fantasies of regularly churning out 5,000 words an hour of quality prose.
Fantasies of publishing ten novels a year and hitting the NYT Bestseller List with every one of them.
Fantasies of writing a novel so meaningful and moving that in a hundred years it’s taught in schools and is the only book kids are forced to read that they actually enjoy.
I’m lying. I don’t actually want to publish ten novels a year. I’d rather publish two. Books I’ve written are a bit like cats. I adore cats, but I wouldn’t want to live with more than three at a time because my house would get (even more) full of fur, and I wouldn’t be able to walk to the kitchen in the dark without falling over someone.
3. Learning writing craft
Yes, I do read writing books to learn how to improve my writing. Though it’s secondary, or tertiary, to the other reasons.
I learned a lot by reading novels my whole life, but you can only learn so much about how to make cake by eating it. At some point you need a recipe.
I know that’s not a great analogy because you can see every word in a book by reading it. The problem is that it’s hard to see why they’re all there. Writing craft books can help you with that.
But as I said, maybe you’re smarter than me.
So that’s why I read books about writing. How about you?
Do you read about writing craft in books or on blogs? Why or why not? Any recommendations? If I were to write about my favourite craft books, would you care?
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